WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? AND TIME FOR A FOX FIRE?

” The mistake by the lake Bills will not win another game. What a disgrace!” – Buffalo fan who seems to have lost confidence in the team

” Can someone direct me to the ‘ Fire John Fox’ petition?” – Chicago fan who thinks it is time John Fox is banished from the coaching den

The Buffalo Bills were well rested. (They had not played since the prior Thursday.) They were prepared; or at least one assumes they used the extra few days to prepare. They were at home against a dome team in chilly weather. Everything seemed to lean in the Bills favor. And they had incentive: erase the shame of their previous outing against the Jets and stay in the hunt for the AFC East division title. What could possibly go wrong?

To unpack that mystery, let us start with the defense and the offense. Both components are usually considered essential to success: the Bills faltered badly on both sides of scrimmage in getting bludgeoned by the Saints 47-10. New Orleans had six rushing touchdowns, the most ever against the Bills. This from a team that has a reputation for a pass-first style of play. In one series, the Saints drove 94 yards for a score – with ten straight runs. At times, the Bills seemed flummoxed. To add insult to injury, the march was capped off when Drew Brees jogged six yards for a score. The accomplished aerial artist is 38-years-old and clearly had no intention of hitting paydirt via his aging legs; but oh those Bills are so accommodating and they appeared punch-drunk by that point. Or maybe just plain drunk. A condition quite commonplace among their grouchy distraught fans.

When the frazzled stat man penned in the final tally, New Orleans amassed 482 total yards with 298 recorded by hauling the pigskin. At one point they ran it twenty-four consecutive times in the second half. Of course when you are averaging nearly seven yards a pop, why relent? It also converted into a huge possession advantage as the Saints plowed away for 32 first downs on the day, compared to Buffalo’s 10. The Bills were somewhat flat and could squeeze out only 198 yards, most coming in garbage time after the chastened despondent Tyrod Taylor observed the action while plopped next to the water bucket. Some blocks of the fan base are starting to lose confidence in Taylor as he had his worst day since being recruited by the infallible and recently departed Rex Ryan. Taylor completed only 9 of 18 passes for 56 yards, and finished with a an ego-bruising 33.6 rating. Going forward, he might not be the player Buffalo needs to get them to the next level and the Bills have announced that Taylor will remain guarding the water bucket and rookie Nate Peterman will assume the starter duty. The coaches have now officially declared this a “rebuilding year.”

While the jury is preparing to cast its verdict on Taylor’s future in Buffalo, a convincing case can be made that it is time for coach John Fox to receive his walking papers in Chicago. Fox seems befuddled by the “challenge” system for replays and evidently does not comprehend that it is supposed to be used to his team’s advantage instead of becoming a liability. Fox inexplicably used a challenge when the Bears were in prime scoring position with an opportunity to tie detested division rival Green Bay. In a case of being too clever by a half, the challenge flag was thrown and upon further review the Bears not only didn’t get a touchdown or at least a first and goal, they lost possession on what was ruled a touchback. They also lost a rare winnable game 23-16. Chicago, a city of wanton lust-crazed hedonists is dripping with scorn for Fox and now lusts for his dismissal.

Since assuming the helm in Chicago, Fox is a less than glittering 12-29. He can’t even use being saddled with Jay Cutler as quarterback as an excuse anymore. The outcast Cutler headed south to throw interceptions for Miami while Fox (and/or witless front office), imported unproven Mike Glennon for a small fortune and now he sits while Mitch Trubisky tries to navigate the treacherous NFL terrain in his rookie season. Bad or at least erratic personnel moves and clumsy game management have marked the Fox regime and one suspects his ouster is imminent.

Apparently that is not true of beleaguered Bob McAdoo in New York. Despite falling to 1-8 and getting manhandled by the previously winless 49ers who shredded the defense for 474 yards, the Giants hierarchy is holding steadfast and to use a Reagan era term – ” staying the course.” In fact, it was 1976, even before Reagan made jelly beans and astrologers part of the White House mainstream, that the Giants removed a head coach midstream. And that was the ill-fated Bill Arnsparger who was 0-7 when the axe fell. Arnsparger also had the unique distinction of coaching the Giants on three different home fields: the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Ct. in 1974; Shea Stadium in 1975; and Giants Stadium in 1976. Tuck that into your trivia quiver for future reference.

Viva la Belichick ! After consulting with the cartels, Roger Goodell received permission to have Mexico host a regular season game. In what is designated a “home” game for the Raiders, it might be interesting to see a certain cast of spectators in the prime seating section flanked by security guards boasting AK-47’s; in other words, it will seem just like a game in Oakland. They will be “hosting” the Patriots who are on a roll lately and getting much better play from their defense after some wobbly early outings.

Coming off an uncharacteristic rout of the Broncos in Denver (41-16), New England is hitting playoff stride. It was special teams that turned the tide in what was otherwise an even statistical match up. The Pats converted a botched punt return into a score, then when Denver showed a little life by getting on the scoreboard, Deion Lewis zoomed 103 yards for a TD on the ensuing kickoff. Throw in a blocked punt, and a penalty for having too many men on the field which helped prolong a New England scoring drive and the recipe for a romp was complete.

Despite a wave of injuries to key personnel, Belichick manages to patch together units that still function at a high level. This season has to qualify as one of his best coaching jobs and now the Pats are gearing up to deliver a mortal blow to the Raiders playoff hopes. On hand in Mexico City to pay tribute to the ultimate mastermind of NFL coaching ranks will be the descendants of Montezuma and the Aztecs who like action-packed competitive contests. They will not be disappointed – Viva la Belichick.

Viva la Mule! He is about ready to chow down on the annual early Thanksgiving dinner here at the complex. Just $ 5 for the mini-feast and even Bills and Giants fans are welcome.

 

 

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DISAPPOINTMENT COAST TO COAST, AND SOME EYE-POPPING STATS

” Disappointed. I’m disappointed.” – NY Giants head coach Ben McAdoo

” He’s not right between the ears.” – Seattle fan describing the mental condition of kicker Blair Walsh

The NY Giants did not play well on Sunday. That’s why coach McAdoo was disappointed. Their fans were disappointed. Even the usually congenial well-behaved inmates on Riker’s Island were disappointed. It was that kind of day. New York lost to Los Angeles 51-17. It was embarrassing at times for a team that is 1-7 for the first time since Jimmy Carter was about to surrender the keys of the White House to Ronald Reagan . That was in 1980.  Maybe the Giants can recruit Carter to play quarterback, or defensive back. At age 93, he might have a little more spring in his step than the lethargic New York deadbeats had against the Rams. Some people think the players have quit on McAdoo.

The play that defined the day and the malaise ( a Carter word) was in the second quarter when the Rams faced a third and 33, usually a fairly secure lockdown situation for the defense. Surrender a few yards and force a punt is the standard script. Not these Giants and not this defense. LA served up a fairly predictable screen pass to Robert Woods and the Giants stood as inert as trees while Woods dashed 52 yards for a score. That was kind of a backbreaker and a hint of the train wreck that was unfolding. Some fans booed after that shoddy effort. Shortly thereafter, an ex-Bill, the one-legged Sammy Watkins waltzed by the secondary for a 67 yard TD. Nary a defensive back was in the same time zone. One fan reportedly shouted an obscenity. While the defense looked bewildered or listless, or plug in your own aspersion, the offense capsized. Mark them down for three turnovers – in the first half. Eli Manning had a fumble and interception attached to his account. Squeezing in on brother Peyton’s insurance commercials might be a good option for Eli as he is getting a little long in the tooth and there is a growing chorus clamoring for his ouster.

Send in the special teams to the rescue; or not. NY had a punt blocked and missed a FG. It was that kind of day as they allowed the most points at home since the Browns trounced them 52-20 in 1964. The immortal Jim Brown was on that Cleveland team. Hell, he could have suited up and scored for the Rams on Sunday. Fortunately, the visitors were not a bloodthirsty bunch (Los Angeles folks are mellow, carefree types) and seemed content to use their subs to bash into the line and chew up the clock in the fourth quarter. This helped preserve a token of dignity for the Giants. After all, no sense in being humiliated. Still, maybe McAdoo was right, it was disappointing.

While the Giants were being reduced to ruins on the East Coast, the Seahawks went flat against the undermanned Redskins out on Puget Sound. Behind a patchwork line, Kirk Cousins engineered a 70 yard game-winning drive in the final minute and a half to manufacture a major upset. The Seattle cause was sabotaged by Blair Walsh who botched all three of his field goal attempts. Teammate Thomas Rawls defended the errant Walsh by astutely noting, ” Nobody’s perfect.”  Woebegotten Walsh had been fairly consistent until latent demons surfaced again. Previously banished from Minnesota for missing a clutch chip shot which once enabled the Seahawks to salvage a wild card win, Walsh now seems to be back in a funk. The usually benign and mentally stable Seattle faithful think poor Blair may be coming unhinged.

Whether there is a remedy for his mental maladies remains to be seen, but his miscues aside, recrimination is in order elsewhere. Washington came to wage war, Seattle was in sleepwalking mode. Other than a Cleveland or San Francisco loss, there are few things that can be taken for granted in the NFL this year. The Seahawks appeared to take a home win for granted but the Redskins didn’t get the message. Seattle then went out and committed a deplorable sixteen penalties, coughed up two turnovers, and misplayed two potential interceptions. They didn’t seem focused. Cousins and company stayed the course and did just enough to emerge with a season saving 17-14 victory. Three points, the price of a field goal. Poor Blair Walsh now must shoulder the blame. Coach Pete Carroll said, ” I’m disappointed for him.”

Before moving to some interesting NCAA results, it should also be noted that another pro team that gave a lackluster effort was the Bills. They were manhandled on both sides of the line of scrimmage in what should have been a very winnable game against the Jets. Instead they dropped a 34-21 stinker. The two late Buffalo scores were charity touchdowns, it was over early. Eleven penalties for 99 yards, including two critical personal fouls for being cruel to the quarterback, were lethal to the Bills. They were in the driver’s seat for a wild card spot or even a division title but now drop to 5-3 so there is less wiggle room for a late season slump. But as sure as Jerry Jones will be the next pope, you will see Buffalo in the postseason.

There is disappointment aplenty in the college ranks. Perhaps nowhere moreso than in Buckeye land after Ohio St. was annihilated by 21 point underdog Iowa. The 55-24 rout was the biggest shocker on the college slate. This should demolish any pretense that Ohio St. is a legitimate contender for the national crown.

Penn St. is another powerhouse that has hit the skids. Two weeks ago the Nittany Lions were in the conversation for the national championship elimination round after starting the season 7-0. Now back-to-back losses puts them in the also-ran stack. Blowing a solid lead and a game to Ohio St. was borderline understandable, the mishandling of the offense against Michigan St. was outright inexcusable. Rarely using one of the biggest guns in the college game leaves the coaching staff open to a barrage of second-guessing: once considered a Heisman Trophy candidate, Saquoun Barkley tallied a mere 14 carries while qb Trace McSorely threw it 47 times on a rainy day where the game was temporarily suspended due to weather conditions. Three of his passes were picked off and adding to the fans’ consternation was the final drive where Barkley was largely an afterthought. This allowed Michigan St. to mount their own drive and to their credit they capitalized by converting the game winning field goal.

Speaking of the Heisman Trophy, Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma may have crept into the front-runner spot in the competition. In one of the year’s most thrilling contests, Mayfield threw for 598 yards and five touchdowns as the Sooners outlasted Oklahoma St. in a 62-52 scoring fest.

Oklahoma is packed right in there with the 8-1 teams hoping to get the call to the Bowl Series final rounds. Psst, Notre Dame is among those sporting an 8-1 record and the Irish have crept into the number 3 spot in the national rankings. They polished off Wake Forest 48-37 and the score was not a reflection of the mismatch. Notre Dame dominated early and rushed for 380 yards and piled up an impressive 715 yards overall. They achieved that with star back Josh Adams sidelined for most of the game due to an injury.

It should make for an interesting final few weeks as teams jockey for an invitation to the coveted football final four.

HALLOWEEN COSTUMES, THE BAD ASS BILLS, AND A SCINTILLATING SERIES

” I predict that the Browns will lose during the bye week.” – Cleveland fan

” I am starting to lose faith in the Browns coaches and players.” – Cleveland fan

Halloween has arrived and the Browns are all decked out masquerading as pro football players. Knowledgeable analysts are claiming the Cleveland season has unraveled. They are 0-8. Consistency is not always an attribute. Last year after eight games, they were also 0-8. Statistically, this edition is slightly worse than last year: 2016, outscored by 80 points in 8 games; this year, by 83 points.  Rudimentary calculations reveal they lose by an average of double digits per game. Their starting quarterback, or at least purported started quarterback, DeShone Kizer barely completes half his passes (52.1 %), and has 11 interceptions and 3 fumbles while throwing only 3 TD passes. He often misses open receivers badly. Little can be said on the rookie’s behalf as a long-term prospect. That is why it seems critical that Cleveland loses out and drafts another quarterback from a 2018 stock that should have ample talent at that position.

But just hold on. The 49ers have piped in: ” What about us? We are 0-8 too.” And after throwing a scare into some teams in the early going, San Francisco has been stomped the last two weeks. However they have a front office that is more clever than Cleveland’s, which is probably tantamount to boasting that someone has an infant daughter smarter than Kim Kardashian; or maybe a pet goldfish smarter than Khloe Kardashian. Look what the Niners have done, they went and traded for a quarterback with a largely positive upside by snagging idle Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots. Naysayers could point out that Garoppolo hasn’t thrown a pass all season; then again, the efforts to date by the current crew have done little to resemble one either.

It could make for an interesting second half as the 49ers have three winnable games in the next four weeks: Arizona, the Giants, and Chicago. Even two victories would elevate Garoppolo to cult status in a city renown for embracing cults. If he is even adequate, that scratches one itch and the management brain trust can start planning to remedy other glaring problems.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DIVISION RACES?   With Oakland crumbling against the Bills, the Chiefs are a virtual shoo-in to capture what was expected to be a competitive AFC West. If the Ezekiel Elliott suspension holds, you can about scratch the Cowboys off the NFC East board as the Eagles sit at 7-1. Washington has lost to Philadelphia twice so pulling even won’t help when it comes to tiebreakers. Barring an epic collapse, the Steelers should secure the AFC North top spot fairly. At 6-2, and featuring a dynamic offense, solid defense, and a two game lead over Baltimore, it appears Pittsburgh will coast to the finish line. Hell they might even be charitable in week 17 and rest their starters so the Browns catch a whiff of a win.

Usually by this time, the Patriots are penciled in as AFC East champions and the Bills are contemplating their next head coaching change. The tides have shifted and Buffalo is hot on New England’s heels. Dispensing with the Jets on Thursday night would lift the Bills to 6-2 and put them neck and neck with the Pats, and they meet twice in the latter part of the schedule. Contemplating a worst case scenario, just playing .500 ball for the duration should be enough to reap a wild card and end Buffalo’s 17 year absence from the postseason. Meanwhile the Patriots gave Brady a vote of confidence for this year and the next few ensuing seasons by trading Garoppolo, as indicated above. Nevertheless, they are beset by a rash of injuries and remain ripe for the taking by the upstart Bills.

I expected a close hard-fought World Series but the Astros and Dodgers have raised the drama meter. With records falling by the wayside it is appropriate that it will be decided with a game 7. Oddly, the first ever such finale since the Dodgers took the O’Malley train to the coast nearly sixty years ago. (Breaking many a Brooklyn native’s heart and leaving a residue of bitterness ever since.) Regardless of one’s partisan interests or lack of them, this Series has been a treasure for baseball fans and let us hope the climax matches the preliminary histrionics.

A concluding note for NY Giant fans. You have had little to cheer about in this season’s dismal campaign but if you want to relive some of the glory years, there is a biography of Lawrence Taylor on the shelves – My Giant Life which unfortunately seems to have been written largely by Taylor, though William Wyatt is credited in the co-author role.

STATS WORTH NOTING, AND A COMPELLING FALL CLASSIC

Some odds and ends as I nudge my way back into the writing arena.

” Who in the hell is in charge of your draft? We hear your analytics guy is a buffoon.” – Fan seeking answers about the Browns

” Personally, I think Carson Wentz would have gotten killed by now if he were on the Browns.” – Philly fan assessing the Cleveland situation

” The citizens of Buffalo are now safe. Pedestrians can walk the streets without being worried about Marshawn Lynch hitting them and peeling out.” – Bills fan who feels the city is safe now

NFL Stats worth noting.

New England may be 5-2 and their defense certainly stepped it up against Atlanta but they still allow a 103. 8 passer rating and 67 % completion mark. That is troubling especially since after the bye in week 9, five of their last eight games are away from congenial Foxboro. It includes back-to-back stops in Denver and Oakland, and almost certain defeats in Buffalo and Pittsburgh. This is not the team experts hailed in the pre-season and it looks like they whiffed when they spent a fortune on free agent Stephon Gillmore. He has been a dud so far. They are also uncharacteristically penalty and bone-headed mistake prone.  Brady is still an anomaly playing superbly at age 40 and will probably guide them to a wild card slot, but no farther. The AFC East will come down to the wire and the division title will go to either Buffalo or Miami.

How to play defense. The Pats should watch the game films of the upstart Jags if they are intent on reform. Jacksonville has 33 sacks through seven games and is on pace to break the all-time mark established by the Bears in 1984. The Jaguars are second in scoring defense and permit a league low 62.3 passer rating. As we near the midway point they have a viable shot at capturing the crown in an AFC South that features no ironclad frontrunner.

Crazy in Kansas City. The Chiefs are on a little bit of a skid, dropping two straight but for a change no one can point the finger at Alex Smith. He has 16 TD passes and has yet to throw an interception. One of his favorite targets is rookie Kareem Hunt who has caught 93 % of the 27 passes thrown his way, and combined with his rushing attempts he averages 6.7 yards per touch. KC will be around when the scrap for playoff money commences.

Cleveland has some issues. I am referring to the Browns not the city. They are 0-7 in 2017, and 1-22 since Hue Jackson assumed the head coaching job. Hue’s Browns are plagued by turnovers, mostly from the quarterback spot; 19 in all (the next closest team is 14). He might be better off deciding on one starter instead of playing quarterback roulette and instruct his signal callers to only throw the ball in an emergency. With injuries piling up, Cleveland could pull off a winless campaign. Sigh, and to think they could have Carson Wentz.

Carson Wentz has the Eagles in the driver’s seat in the NFC East after an impressive Monday night win over the Redskins where Wentz threw four TD passes. He now has 17 scoring tosses against only 4 interceptions as Philly sits at 6-1. It is not just numbers with the sophomore sensation, he has command of the game, and like Aaron Rodgers wiggles free from pass rushers to keep plays alive. Supplying him some competent receivers has certainly helped the cause and Wentz will be in the MVP conversation for the duration. On the other side of the ball, the young secondary was expected to be a weak link in the operation but so far have risen to all challenges. This is a good Eagles defense and complements the offense well. Philadelphia may finally have all the pieces to make a legitimate Super Bowl run. However tag on the caveat about the potential for a slump now that they have lost All-Pro tackle Jason Peters for the season.

Oakland really needs to assess the Marshawn Lynch situation. He is more of a bust than a beast, unless you include his assault on officials. He is a detriment to a team that has post-season aspirations. Lynch has already exhausted his limited reserve of self-control and attracts attention for antics more than output. The ” I’m being picked on.” response, speaks volumes about his juvenile mindset and bodes ill for the future. Time for the Raiders to jettison the junk before it becomes more of a liability.

No junk in the World Series. Both the Dodgers and Astros are high quality teams and the best that their respective leagues have to offer. It has already been a dramatic post-season with the Yankees ousting the Indians after trailing 2 games to none, then taking Houston the limit before succumbing. This shapes up as a throwback Series for purists who like pitching duels and outcomes hinging on every pitch. While the NFL reels from negative publicity hits, baseball grabs the spotlight in the Fall Classic; and rightly so.

The Mule will be watching Game Two of that Series and will be resuming a normal eating routine with his hamburgers and salad, and mandatory Diet Pepsi. Big evaluation tomorrow at the vascular surgeon and hopefully will resume a regular writing routine soon.

LATEST ROUND OF HEADLINES

HERMIT WHO CLAIMED THE WORLD WOULD END IN 1694 WAS WRONG

ATTORNEY FOR THE ” MAD POOPER” CLAIMS SHE HAS A RIGHT TO POOP IN PUBLIC

WOMAN TOO BRIGHT FOR PRISON SENTENCE SPARED FROM PRISON SENTENCE

TEACHER SUSPECTED OF HIDING IN CEILING TO CATCH CHEATERS

FIRE DAMAGES HOME NEAR HELL

WOMAN ARRESTED FOR TRAINING SQUIRRELS TO ATTACK HER EX-BOYFRIEND

SCARY CLOWNS TO START DELIVERING DOUGHNUTS

MAN CALLS 911 TO THREATEN TO KILL A JUDGE

150 MILLION SPIDERS ARE GOING TO INVADE HOMES FOR MATING SEASON

IT’S ILLEGAL TO DANCE IN MOST BARS IN NEW YORK CITY

MOM INVENTS SPRAY THAT WILL ATTRACT BIG FOOT WITHIN 1.5 MILES, ALSO REPELS MOSQUITOES

MAN POLITELY ASKING BEARS TO LEAVE HIS PROPERTY CAUGHT ON VIDEO

POLICE SEEK TOILET PAPER THIEVES

17 METER LOBSTER FOR SALE

WEATHERMAN BREAKS WIND DURING LIVE BROADCAST

WOMAN CALLS COPS TO REPORT HER METH TASTES BAD

OFFICERS STOP DEER ON BRIDGE FOR TOLL EVASION

ARMED ROBBERS HOLD UP BAR WHERE COPS ARE HOLDING A RETIREMENT PARTY

BELARUS IS AT WAR WITH IMAGINARY COUNTRY

DRUNK DRIVER CRASHES INTO A REPORT DRUNK DRIVERS SIGN

MUGSHOT SHOWS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU TRY TO HIJACK A CAR WITH THREE FOOTBALL PLAYERS IN IT

 

 

 

 

 

BACK WITH SOME HEADLINES

Time to gingerly get back into the posting business with some recent headlines.

MYSTERY WOMAN CRASHES EVERY FUNERAL FOR 14 YEARS TO GET FREE FOOD

MAN CATCHES STRANGE WOMAN GOING THROUGH HIS FRIDGE WHILE WEARING HIS WIFE’S CLOTHES

WOMAN JOGGER DUBBED ” THE MAD POOPER” WANTED BY POLICE

WOMAN TRAPPED IN WINDOW TRYING TO RETRIEVE HER POOP AFTER DATE

NEARLY NAKED WOMAN WITH WEBBED FEET TELLS CALIFORNIA POLICE SHE IS A MERMAID

BEEKEEPER SITS BUTT ON BUZZING HIVE TO WIN $ 1,000 BET

TEST TO DISCOVER WHICH BODY PART HURTS THE MOST WHEN STUNG BY A BEE

OHIO WOMAN CALLS 911 SAYING, ” I HAVE A BOA CONSTRICTOR STUCK TO MY FACE.”

YOU DON’T OWN YOUR FACE

YOU’VE BEEN SLICING YOUR BREAD WRONG

MAN EATS ELECTRICITY WHEN HE HAS NO FOOD

IF YOU’VE BOUGHT AVOCADOS ON FACEBOOK, THEY WERE PROBABLY STOLEN

MASSIVE PENIS LEFT IN PARK AND NO ONE KNOWS WHY

MAN BEING CHASED BY POLICE STOPS TO FILL OUT JOB APPLICATION

UNDERTAKERS TESTED ON HOW TO DRESS A CORPSE

THERE IS A GENIUS STREET ARTIST RUNNING AMOK IN NYC

UBER’S SEARCH FOR A FEMALE CEO HAS BEEN NARROWED TO THREE MEN

TRUCK WITH 22,000 POUNDS OF RAVIOLI, JALAPENOS GOES UP IN FLAMES ON INDIANA HIGHWAY

MAN WHO ROBBED BANK TO GET AWAY FROM HIS WIFE, GIVEN HOUSE ARREST

HOME OWNED BY GOD TO BE AUCTIONED OFF

 

 

 

OVERTIME: THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF

” He is ready to separate the wheat from the chaff with the winnowing fork.” – Matthew 3:12

” Hell, I couldn’t coach frogs to jump.” – Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne

THE MULE IN THE RED ZONE

Old Moses Mule is ready to separate the wheat from the chaff with his winnowing fork, or at least he might be using a fork to separate the spaghetti from the mashed potatoes and the chicken parmesan. As usual there are storm clouds hovering over the picnic as Commissioner Roger Goodell appears to have mishandled another disciplinary case. Last year it was Brady, this time it is the Elliott fiasco. It gives the likes of Skip Bayless, Colin Herd, and ESPN pundits something to chew on as the season draws neigh. No doubt more such missteps lurk on the horizon, so as the Mule masticates let’s get to the main meat of the column with the first predictions of the year and the occasionally comforting and perhaps even occasionally infuriating Mule Diet Pepsi 12-Pick.

The first shot heard round the league will be in New England with the red clad Kansas City Chiefs invading for the annual Thursday night opener. The Pats suffered a devastating blow losing reliable receiver Julian Edelman in a meaningless preseason game and the big question is who will step up to fill his spot. Belichick will have to pick from the pool of potential candidates and it will be interesting to see how well speedster Brandin Cooks integrates into the New England passing schemes.  The Chiefs incurred their own casualty setback with Spencer Ware hitting the injury list and they must turn to rookie Kareem Hunt to pick up the running slack. Kansas City has the defense to keep the Pats potent offense in check, but not enough offense of their own to spring an upset in visitor averse Foxboro. An intriguing kick off to what promises to be another topsy-turvy NFL campaign, and the edge goes to New England by 3.

NY Jets at Buffalo   The Scott McDermott era commences in Bills land and he gets an easy draw against the hapless Jets. Buffalo can ill afford to stumble against weaker foes as the schedule offers little in way of relief. The likely scenario is a Jets loss which will be the first ugly cut in a dismal season. Get out the beer cans and Bills banners, this one belongs to Buffalo by 8.

Philadelphia at Washington   The Eagles are starting to attract notice as a darkhorse threat in the NFC East and much depends on the development of Carson Wentz in his sophomore season as quarterback. I have confidence he will meet the test and continue to progress. I have less confidence in the game management skills of Doug Pederson. Fortunately owner Dan Snyder remains an unsettling force for the Skins. That is just enough of an edge for the guests, Philadelphia by 4.

Oakland at Tennessee   Another of the glamorous week one face- offs as the Raiders come hurtling into 2017 anxious to atone for their disappointing finish last year. Unfortunately they are quarreling with a team harboring equally high aspirations. The Titans believe their arsenal is well stocked for the long haul. Maybe the best game of the week and slice it as a razor thing edge to Tennessee at home, Titans by 1.

Arizona at Detroit   Not much wiggle room for mistakes in this spat either. The general sentiment is that the aging Cardinals are looking at a closing window as contenders. The Lions were the 2016 drama queens and need victories in contests like this to establish themselves as bona fide contenders themselves. Get them off to a good start, Detroit by 2.

Atlanta at Chicago   Finally a breather and an easy call. The Bears are in disarray while the Falcons are still smarting from that Super Bowl collapse. Start the hotseat clock for John Fox in Chicago, Atlanta by 12.

Pittsburgh at Cleveland   The Browns raise the 2017 curtain with the latest quarterback de jour, rookie DeShone Kizer. The Steelers aren’t exactly the most accommodating team for a youngster to get his first taste of NFL perils. The overhaul in Browns town gets off to a rocky start, Pittsburgh by 9.

Seattle at Green Bay   Two potential powerhouses that are expected to be in the postseason conversation. No love lost between these rivals that supply the best in dustups. Put them down for another hair-raising adventure with the home team getting the nod again, Packers by 1.

Carolina at San Francisco   The 49ers will need some time to fit their pieces together, and the Panthers are seeking some rebound elixir. Cam Newton gets to limber up his ailing frame but it won’t be easy. Expect a tussle that goes to Carolina by 5.

NY Giants at Dallas (Sunday night game)   I had originally predicted this as a Giants win but with the legal wrangling continuing in the Elliott case, the Cowboys receive an undeserved reprieve. His presence alters the dynamics considerably. The New York defense will keep it close but I am swinging my vote to Dallas by 2.

New Orleans at Minnesota (Monday night, 7:10 p.m.)   Adrian Peterson returns to Viking land wearing a different costume and is in for a rude reception. This is the classic dynamic offense vs. unyielding defense script. Defense gets the nod in this round, Minnesota by 2.

LA Chargers at Denver (Monday night, 10:30 p.m.)   Another Monday game where intruders will be donning new regalia as the Chargers make the trek from Los Angeles to visit long-time AFC foe Denver. It is also another on the strong offense vs. dominating defense menu and let’s go to that defense well again, Broncos by 6. 

POINTS AFTER

COMEBACKS FOR THE AGES   In the 1960s, the best high school players from Texas used to travel to Pennsylvania to clash in a battle for high school football supremacy. Bobby Layne coached the Texas team and after one defeat, he made the above comment about not being able to coach frogs to jump. Now after UCLA mounted a stunning rally and overcame a 31 point second half deficit against Texas A/M to eke out a 45-44 victory, fans are saying the same thing (and worse) about Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin. One game into the season, one member of the college ruling body is calling for Sumlin’s head. Yes, they take their football seriously in the Lone Star State.

Another Texas team was also involved in an epic comeback at the Insight Bowl in Tempe in 2006. Texas Tech was trailing Minnesota 38-7 in the third quarter then staged five straight scoring drives to knot the score at 38. In overtime, the Gophers drew first blood with a field goal but Tech responded with a TD march to seal the 44-41 win.

NOT QUITE AS DRAMATIC BUT OF NOTE   The Tennessee-Georgia Tech game doesn’t rank among the great comebacks but the Vols did overcome a 14 point deficit in the final frame and nipped Georgia Tech 42-41 in overtime. What was striking is that Georgia rushed for 535 yards and had 655 yards in total offense, yet lost. They ran 96 offensive plays in the contest and still couldn’t nail down the victory. A blocked field goal attempt at the end of regulation foiled Tech’s attempt to put Tennessee away and spelled their doom.

And what better place to sabotage a betting line than Vegas itself? The Howard Bison were 45 point underdogs against U. Nevada Las Vegas but stirred the upset pot with a 43-40 win over the Rebels. It was the biggest point spread upset in college football history.

SOMEONE FIX THE DAMN THING   As indicated above, Ezekiel Elliott will be playing in the opener for the Cowboys against the Giants. This is because he was granted a temporary injunction in the discipline fiasco with Commissioner Roger Goodell. However, an arbiter has ruled that Elliott’s six game suspension still stands. Got that? He can play but then might not be playing. This will no doubt wind its way through the courts, much as the Brady saga did in prior years. On the larger screen, this is still another black eye for the NFL and it detracts from the excitement of the competition itself. There is a litany of such judicial and extra-judicial blights and it is high time the players’ association and commissioner’s office hammered out an acceptable process or submit it to some binding third party and just fix the damn thing.

The Mule has his meal fixed and getting these columns out may be a hit and miss proposition but he will deliver as able. And of course, we must have our concluding quote for the week. This one comes from seductive, bewitching Buffalo: ” Being a 31-year-old Bills fan is kind of like being a child star. You’re too young to grasp how exciting it is to be on top of the world, then the next thing you know, you’re in jail for stabbing strangers in a bar on Christmas.” – Bills fan, age 31